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Through the Back Door

The Black Market in Poland 1944–1989

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Jerzy Kochanowski

This book analyzes the history of the black market in Poland before the 1940s and the development of black-market phenomena in post-war Poland. The author evaluates the interrelation between black-market phenomena and historical and geographical conditions. At first, the black market stabilized the system by making it more flexible and creating a margin of freedom, albeit in the short term. In the long run, the informal economic activities of the people ran counter to and undermined the official ideology of the state. The author concludes that in post-war Poland, owing to a singular coincidence of historical, political, economic and social factors, the second economy had its own unique character and an endemic presence that loomed large in the Soviet Bloc.

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5.2.5.1 Meat Industry or (Creative) Relapse into Crime

The year 1979 was not good for Polish agriculture but the following year proved to be catastrophic, the worst since the Second World War. Agricultural production fell by 10.7%. The grain harvest stayed at the same level as in the previous, weak year but the sugar beet harvest was smaller by a third and that of potatoes shrank to half its former size; this had an immediate impact on animal husbandry. In the second half of 1980, the authorities imported a significant amount of animal feed but this move was not enough to prevent the catastrophe. Shortage of animal feed had a short‑lived, positive impact on butcher stores meat supplies ←209 | 210→when, in the fall of 1980, peasants started selling off their livestock. State purchasing stations and cold storage groaned with meat and the processing plants could not keep up.695 It was a harbinger of problems in the very near future.

The crash came in the first months of 1981. In that year, the state bought 42.6% fewer pigs, 42.4% less cattle, and 27.1% less grain than in the previous year.696 “I only want to say this,” Radom deputy voivode, Wawrzyniec Pietruszka, announced during the First National Anti‑Speculation Meeting on September 15, 1981, “the state purchase of meat in Radom voivodship has fallen to a level unprecedented in the history of the voivodship. We are now buying twenty or forty pieces daily whereas we used to buy 2 000 or 2 500; on average, 1 500 items a day.”697 The crash was felt acutely in the eastern part of Poland, where most individual farms were small. Their owners significantly limited animal farming and, on account of the shortages, put aside for their own use a larger part of their production than before. Another factor was that in eastern Poland, the black market tradition of illegal meat trade was the strongest.698

In the summer of 1981, the situation became even more disastrous. On August 13, General Wojciech Jaruzelski asked the Prime Minister of the Soviet government, Nikolai Tichonov, for 30 000 tons of meat in exchange for potatoes; the Minister of Internal Trade withdrew the regulations introduced much earlier by President Bierut, which allowed legal trade in meat from private slaughter.699 The authorities were fully aware of their utter inability to control the market in the situation when to even be able to buy food on ration coupons bordered on the miraculous and the countryside had been denied the coupons altogether. “We can do nothing to eliminate the unofficial meat trade,” the Deputy Prime Minister, Stanisław Mach, admitted in September 1981. “When a nephew visits his uncle, they kill a pig and he takes it to town. I don’t see any sense in taking action against such situations. We are not able to do this and such cases are not worth prosecuting, we won’t get anywhere. It’s just not worth it. If he brings the meat to the city, than at least he won’t be buying it there. It works out the same. We should approach the issue in a ←210 | 211→flexible way. The same way we approach the question of slaughter of livestock by neighboring farmers. Two neighbors share a slaughtered pig. They slaughter a pig because they have to eat.”700

Soon, however, the official voices ceased to be as liberal as that. It became clear that the officially acknowledged “breaking of the economic bond between the city and the countryside” applied primarily to state channels. The farmers effectively took advantage of the situation and were selling their products illegally. The opening of the price scissors benefited the countryside (in 1981, average earnings from selling agricultural products rose by 67%, while prices of industrial articles only by 27%). It was advantageous for farmers to sell meat and potatoes outside of the official channels and to purchase farming equipment in the same way.701 Selling was easy – city residents were coming directly to the farms, as had happened during the German occupation, and paid the inflated price without batting an eyelid.

Illegal mobile meat shop. Warsaw, 2 September 1981. Photo: Polish Press Agency (PAP).

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For the city and the countryside, direct mutual cooperation was vital, bypassing state institutions. City dwellers did not feel like decreasing their consumption as radically as the imposed rations implied,702 preferring to dip into their savings instead, if need be. As a result, between 1980 and 1981, the standard of living did not decline in line with the whole economy. While in 1980 the national income fell by 6%, consumption actually rose by 1%, and in 1981, with a fall in the national income in excess of 10%, consumption declined only by 5%.703 For the increasingly demanding peasants, the offer put on the table by the state was less than satisfactory. For example in 1982, although the prices that the state paid farmers for agricultural products did rise, the increase was only half that of the rise in the prices of consumer goods and farming equipment (56.9% and 112.4% respectively) that the peasants were obliged to keep buying. In the following years, the ratio worsened further.704 Participation in black market operations became all the more profitable.

In 1981, the meat black market entered its golden era. Never before had it boasted such mass participation, using such an abundance of strategies, with such a universal acquiescence in its complex modus operandi, applied both by individuals and by institutional players (and the latter did not always side with the authorities). The government was unable even to estimate the size of the unofficial meat trade and admitted helplessly: “It is not possible to establish the actual amount of meat […] brought to the market from illegal slaughter or as a result of various economic schemes outside of the rationing and distribution system.”705 It was estimated that between 30 and 70% of all bulk meat was sold in ways that were more or less illegal. Even when an animal was delivered to a state purchasing station, this was no guarantee that all the meat would end up in a butcher’s store. “Complicated economic operations in the meat industry,” according to the Meat Industry Center (Centrala Przemysłu Mięsnego), “begin with state contracts and purchase, through meat processing and up to the final sale of a ready product, and at each stage, there are opportunities for abuse.”706

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5.2.5.1Meat Industry or (Creative) Relapse into Crime

Once in a state purchasing station, pigs and cows often mysteriously vanished, in reality immediately bought “under the table” by unofficial agents, owners of private butcher’s shops or franchised restaurants and guesthouses.707 Traditionally, the meat industry remained the source of supply for the unofficial market. The meat industry continued to be an arena of repeat crime – “often before one investigation ends, the next one has to be opened in the same plant.”708 The panoply of old illegal strategies ranging from sophisticated scams generating surplus to petty thefts was now extended by some new strategies, often based on the “creative” interpretation of existing regulations.

Meat and meat products “leaked” from all kinds of plants, big processing plants operating under the Meat Industry Center (Centrala Przemyslu Mięsnego) and small enterprises, which belonged to the Warsaw Consumer Cooperative (WSS Społem), Farmers Self‑Help Cooperative (Samopomoc Chłopska), Community Cooperatives (Gminna Spółdzielnia), State Agriculture Farms (PGR) and the Agricultural Cooperative (RSP). It was an open secret that the scale of the abuses was greater in the peripheries than in central Poland, where it had the backup of community networks and the very setting of the plants – these were usually located in former craft shops in residential areas, often adjacent to apartment houses – shielded the local meat industry from official intervention.709

In early 1982, according to the Meat Industry Center there were two kinds of “meat” crimes: “group crime operations involving employees of various departments (purchase, production, distribution, and security) in a meat plant working together with the goal of creating unrecorded surplus to sell with the help of people operating outside of the industry,” and individual theft committed by meat plant employees who helped themselves to “various amounts of meat and meat products.”710 The first method was wholesale – it supplied the black market with often industrial quantities of fresh and cured meat. For example, in late 1981 and early 1982, meat plant workers in Szczecin in cooperation with ←213 | 214→PKS bus drivers carted away 3.5 tons of meat and 6.4 tons of offal.711 In 1986, in processing plants in Chrzanów and Bytom, 1.6 tons of meat and meat products was discovered ready to be “disappeared”.712 There were also “targeted” thefts usually of “de-completed half-carcasses” which involved trimming off the most valuable cuts of meat. One such scam was uncovered in the Katowice Meat Plant, where the inspectors reported that “in the post‑slaughter warehouse a notebook was found, in which warehouse employees entered an accurate record of the number and category of cuts diverted for their own purposes. It transpired from the notes that between April and June 1981, they had cut 12 360 carcasses, which constituted approximately 11.9% of the total number of half‑carcasses acquired from slaughter. The daily number of cuts varied between 17 and 242, while daily slaughter varied between 500 and 550 animals.”713

The employees of meat plants could easily treat meat obtained in this manner as “added value” that could be sold through unofficial channels or exchanged for other goods or services. They did not have to worry about their own everyday supply; they received special allowances, which had increased since 1981 thanks to the recent collective agreements. According to the agreements, all meat industry employees, from couriers to directors, were entitled to receive or buy approximately 15 kg of meat per month each. However, the inspection conducted at the turn of 1981 and 1982 by the Ministry of Finance, the Central Commission for Combating Fraud (CKWS) and the National Inspectorate of Purchasing and Processing of Agricultural Products (PISiPAR) revealed that only one (in the Poznań voivodship) in twenty six plants complied with the regulations. In all the others, the employees received as much as up to 42 kg of meat and meat products, usually the best cuts, monthly. This was quite legal and based on management decisions, taken under pressure from the unions, including Solidarity. There were 146 000 authorized employees and retirees in the meat industry but numerous outsiders took advantage of buying meat in factory stores, among them employees of institutions working closely with the meat industry or persons of “vague status, who bought meat following a verbal or written recommendation of the director”.714 For example, in the Żerań factory there were at least 250 such people, and in Wrocław the PISiPAR employees also had similar privileges.

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According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, in 1981, in factory stores in Kalisz, Poznań, Płock, Tarnobrzeg, Wrocław, Jelenia Góra and Warsaw voivodships alone at least 330 tons of meat and its products and over 20 tons of fats had been sold in quantities above the guaranteed allowance. It is difficult to say how widespread this phenomenon was and what the decision process was for granting special allowances for weddings, baptisms, and other family celebrations. Often, the allowance was just a pretext for a legal meat transfer out of the factory.715 Attempts undertaken in mid‑1982 to decrease the meat allowances of the industry’s employees’ met with understandable and effective resistance.

By virtue of dealing with scarce and valuable goods, meat plants found themselves in a highly privileged position in comparison with other branches of industry and services. Their management teams often took advantage of the situation and, contrary to the law and with workers’ approval, engaged in barter transactions with other enterprises.716 This was possible as part of good relationships with other industrial entities, and with the help of an imaginative interpretation of the State Enterprise Act of September 25, 1981 as well as of the government decision to allow enterprises to purchase and sell market goods “on the basis of freely arranged sales agreements.” The fact that the Act did not include the rationed articles in the transactions was rarely acknowledged and prosecutors generally did not support police intervention in such cases.717 The prosecutors were also usually indulgent in instances where the law had self‑evidently been broken, such as in the case of the Powiśle Social Services Agricultural Conglomerate in Czernin, where between January 1 and March 31, 1984 the management bought and slaughtered 3 138 animals weighing 322 488 kg and sold the meat outside the rationing system to its own employees (83 tons) but also to the Gdańsk Shipyard, the Malinowo Gardening Company near Tczew or the Żywiec Brewery.718

State and cooperative agriculture producers were often more concerned with satisfying the needs of employees and local residents than complying with the demands of the government. To achieve this goal, they took advantage of the regulations that referred, on public health grounds, to selective slaughter of weak or injured animals. Meat obtained in this way did not have to be delivered to state purchasing stations. Sometimes, however, it was healthy animals ←215 | 216→that were earmarked for employees’ own consumption, and the ones selected on health grounds were sold to the state. The case of the Agricultural Cooperative in Borowiec in Wielkopolska was fairly typical. In 1981, the Coop “directed to the slaughterhouse 1 412 pigs weighing 151.5 tons and 198 cattle weighing 50.7 tons for its own needs. Healthy animals were selected for slaughter to meet employees’ own needs and the animals to be slaughtered compulsorily were sent to the Meat Plant in Ostrów Wielkopolski. Aside from that, while the rationing rules were in effect, 74 pigs and two cows were sold to the Orbis Travel Agency in Warsaw, LOT Airlines in Warsaw, the Furniture Factory in Wrocław, the Forest Service in Taczanów, and to others. With such a large volume of slaughter for its own consumption and sales to other agencies, the Agricultural Cooperative Conglomerate (RKS) under inspection fulfilled only 87.8% of the quota under its livestock delivery agreement with the Meat Plant in Krotoszyn and only 28% of its hog quota.”719 In 1981 alone, the cooperatives sold 1 440 cows and 8 504 pigs to various state businesses and institutions, among them the National Bank of Poland. Its Central Hard Currency Department in Warsaw purchased four “cows with a cumulative live weight of 1 732 kg for 56 zloty per kilo. After slaughtering the cows in the Nowy Dwór slaughterhouse, on October 19, 1981 the meat was delivered to Warsaw by the coop’s transportation and sold to NPB employees, five kilograms per person at 130 zloty per kilo.”720

After the introduction of Martial Law, the scheme was practiced perhaps less ostentatiously but probably on a similar scale. In August 1984 it was estimated that the State Agriculture Farms (PGR) and Agricultural Cooperative (RSP) reserved for their own needs between 30 and 40% of all livestock.721 Between 1983 and 1984 alone, in “nationalized agriculture units” at least 22 679 animals (3 993 cows and 18 686 pigs, in total 2 730 tons in weight) were slaughtered and “meat and its products were sold in significant amounts outside the rationing system to state farm employees, local residents, restaurants and resort managers.”722

This widespread privatization of the state took place with the tacit consent not only of plant management teams but also of local political elites, for whom it was a way of preventing social tensions and reinforcing client networks.723 This situation created two categories of people – those with access to this kind of distribution channels and those without. The first tried to entrench themselves in ←216 | 217→their comfortable positions and defended them ferociously. The second engaged in futile protests and tried to develop individual strategies for looking for direct access to meat in the countryside. As a fallback position, they could also rely on the “veal woman”…

5.2.5.2“The Veal Woman”: A Retrospective Portrait

“They treated me like I was some kind of minister,” the peasant woman from a village near Radzymin, who used to deliver meat to Professor Władysław Bartoszewski and other members of the Warsaw elite, reminisced fondly in conversation with this author in 2004.724 Today, it is the ubiquitous “veal woman” – with her characteristic headscarf, and laden with big baskets and bundles – that springs to mind as a symbolic image of the days, now happily in the past, when Poland experienced food shortages that were alleviated only through a symbiosis of the country and the city. The veal woman paid regular, often prescheduled visits to city apartments and offices and sold veal, unavailable elsewhere. The complexity of the situation deserves a closer look, also from a historical perspective. Direct vending as a solution to the meat supply problem was based on practices of transfer and distribution going back not only to the times of the German occupation but even to the First World War. Additionally, the mass migration from rural areas to the cities, which began in the late 1940s, resulted in a whole network of private dependencies and new distribution channels, quite informal and extremely difficult to examine. All big cities in Poland had their own “meat and dairy supply hinterland”. Near Warsaw, the most absorbent market in the country, initially the most important were Karczew (during the War already known as “Prosiakowo”, Piglet Town725), Nowa Iwiczna (aka the “capital of illegal slaughter” in the late 1940s),726 and the neighborhoods of Radzymin, Wołomin and Wyszków. In early 1949, every second adult resident of Rybienko and Jadów and every fourth of the Radzymin county was said to be engaged in illegal slaughter.727 The production capacity of local barns and pigsties soon became insufficient to satisfy the growing demand but people were constantly ←217 | 218→expanding the supply networks. For example in the early 1950s, illegal butchers from Karczew were bringing pigs from Mińsk, Łuków, and even Kozienice counties from where they were shipped down the Vistula.728 In the 1980s, thanks to the developing transportation system, everyday provisions for Warsaw came from as far away as Siedlce, Ostrołęka and Radom.729 The Warsaw market had a great absorptive capacity, as is clear from the fact that in 1985, in the Warsaw voivodship 120 times more calf hides were bought by the state than live animals (the actual numbers were 36 775 and 300 respectively). Incidentally, the number of hides was four times higher than the calf head‑count in the voivodship.730

In the big cities, the transfer of meat from rural areas was of great significance.731 During the first post‑war decade, the narrow-gauge commuter railway was used more often than the regular trains. Since the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries, the narrow gauge railroad had helped to supply the cities with food and, to large extent, determined the type of agriculture along its route. The passengers of commuter trains were not chance travelers but often a tightly‑knit group. Frequent train stops, the slow pace and the mostly cooperative, locally based crew provided relative security for the illegal traders.

The atmosphere in regular trains, where inspections were easier to carry, was less trade‑friendly. To avoid transporting meat on trains, traders instead posted it by mail or enlisted the help of railroad workers, who knew how to avoid the inspectors, or of the military who did not allow them to touch their luggage.732 Often dealers reached for proven methods of hiding contraband, tested during the First World War, such as putting it in milk cans or faking pregnancy – using the latter method, women from Wyszków carried several kilos of veal at a time.733

The more experienced meat dealers tried to use the bus service (PKS), which replaced the narrow‑gauge railroad, gradually withdrawn from service from the ←218 | 219→beginning of the 1950s, or random private cars, especially company cars, which were rarely inspected by police. The buses were a convenient option, because the traders had the opportunity of getting off before the stop where the inspection was expected. “The so‑called blockades we use in our operations,” the authorities reported in September 1984, “prompt the dealers to get off the bus at an earlier stop or at a request stop, in order to avoid searches.”734

Public transportation did not guarantee safety but it was cheap. One could almost say that the state subsidized the black market by providing cheap transportation. However, only small dealers used public transport; those who dealt in quantity had to rely on cars.735 Several dozen kilograms of goods could be taken by train or by bus, but by car you could transport several hundred. For example in March 1984, police from Wyszków found 217 kg of pork in a Fiat arriving from Warsaw. In June, they discovered 179 kg of veal.736 The “motorized” trade allowed shorter transit times and improved sanitary conditions. “There are those,” wrote Marek Przybylik in 1984, “who come in cars equipped with refrigerators where meat is neatly packaged according to the wishes of the clients, exactly to order.”737

Although many urban families retain vivid, and now entertaining, memories of the complex and ingenious operations of the 1980 meat smuggling from the countryside to their doorstep,738 these operations were in reality quite amateurish and did no more than meet the immediate needs of family members and a few friends. Usually, attempts to make serious money from the trade probably ended in a way similar to the experiences of a Warsaw taxi driver in the mid‑980s, who in the village Kosów Lacki in Podlasie bought some 150 kg of meat products to sell for profit. “I paid 125 500 zloty from my own pocket for these fresh, mouth‑watering tidbits. Later that evening, we went on our way back to Warsaw. We felt apprehensive, since at that time the police were quite aggressive in dealing with such activities and often stopped cars for inspection. We got home without any trouble. The goods stayed at my place. Next morning, I went to Filona Street to Staszek’s workplace. There I sold some of the cold cuts for about 30 000 zloty. For another 20 000, I sold meat among my friends but I still had over 60 kg left. And it was Sunday. What was I supposed to do?! I visited a few ←219 | 220→restaurants. No luck… We stopped at the auto market in Bemowo and chatted with some grill owners, then visited the flea market on Księcia Janusza Street. All to no avail. They either had enough of their own stuff or they wanted invoices. All fired up (me especially), we set off to the village of Marki. The owner of a roadside pub, Under the Roses, bought 12 kg of kielbasa from us at 800 zloty per kilo; he then called a motel. They wanted 20 kg. When we turned up with 46 kg, they were a bit surprised but in the end took it all. I was so relieved. We barely broke even. And what a hassle! I decided to stay away from the meat business in the future, unless as a middleman or a driver.”739

Bearing in mind the perishable nature of the product in question, the reliability of the supplier was of utmost importance in the meat trade. Both state propaganda and urban myths referred darkly to cases of selling dog meat as veal; these were not always far‑fetched. This alone was one good reason why tried and tested distribution networks were long‑lived and the contact details of a reliable and honest “veal woman” – valuable information, carefully protected and passed on only to a chosen few. The reverse was also true: the supplier wanted a stable network of solvent customers to whom they could deliver repeat orders on a fixed day and at fixed place. “Special orders” were possible but their price was usually higher. Out of necessity, the women traders set out on weekdays,740 when most of their, usually also female, customers were at work. Thus the image that lives on in the collective memory is of a “veal woman”, who would visit an office, an institute or a hospital, surreptitiously weighing out the portions of veal or pork in some den at the back. “I was taking meat to the hospital in Spartańska Street [in Warsaw]. Doctors and nurses ran to get meat as soon as they saw me. When the director saw that I had veal, he chased me away and threatened to call the police if he saw me there again. He threw me out but did me no harm. I did not go there regularly but there were other people who had a place in a basement where they portioned the veal.”741

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In the mid-1980s, in a Warsaw downtown area, Świętokrzyska Street, where private stores and numerous state institutions were located, the police identified approximately fifty regular traders but were well aware that the real number was at least double that.742 These tended to be “retailers”; the wholesalers would hang around market places, particularly the one at Polna Street, which “mostly served select customers from the embassies and the cultural elite.”743 “We know from our investigation”, a policeman reported to the Central Commission for Combating Fraud (CKWS), “that, near Polna marketplace, a profiteer sells illegal meat from two calves three times a week. We can assume that with good organization, he can turn over 200 calves a year. The profit from selling the meat of a single calf is 6–9 000 zloty, depending on the season. After taking into consideration the additional profit from the anonymous sale of the offal and calfskins in the GS‑Farmers Self-Help at between 600 and 700 zloty per item, the trader’s profit can exceed one million zloty a year. Trading for hard currency has been recorded.”744 Undoubtedly, the state stores were also an important distribution place for meat brought from the countryside.745

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From the late 1940s, if not earlier, janitors had been playing an important role in the unofficial distribution of meat. They were usually born in small villages, where they still had relatives and friends. Their job was to look after an apartment block, and so they had regular contact with the residents without raising suspicions, and they knew their preferences well. “Wyglądała, the janitor, always had some meat for sale,” the Polish writer Maria Dąbrowska wrote in her diary on March 22, 1949.746 The role of janitors in meat distribution did not disappear when they became “building caretakers” in high-rise buildings. For example in February 1984, a profiteer was arrested “in a trash chamber in a building at 6 Grzybowski Square as he was engaged in the processing of 21 kg of meat into kiełbasa, using a meat grinder. He was aided and abetted by the caretaker’s husband.”747

Private customers were not the only clients of the itinerant farmers. In 1981 especially, many workplaces had the tacit agreement of management and the enthusiastic approval of the personnel, supported by the unions, which often organized “provisions operations”, to taking advantage of provisions arriving from farmers’ stables and pigsties. For example, in late November 1981, police in Rychtal near Kalisz stopped a “bus, which belonged to Creativity the Invalids’ Coop (Spółdzielnia Inwalidów “Twórczość”). It was reported that the bus was carrying the half‑carcasses of twelve pigs with a total weight of 1 847 kg. During the investigation it was established that the pigs had been purchased from individual farmers at 200 zloty per kilo of live weight. The persons transporting the meat were delegated by the workers of the above mentioned Coop.”748 This was not an isolated case.

Often in the transactions between workplaces and farmers no money changed hands; they were instead based on barter – factory cars transported to the villages their products, such as cement or coal and returned with a load of meat or potatoes. For example in 1981, a brewery in Brzesko received 1 500 chickens in return for regular deliveries of beer to villages. The Fixture Plant in Kraków exchanged radiators with farmers for 83 sheep.749

This phenomenon was so widespread and universally accepted that it made the large‑scale anti‑speculation operations (with the code names “Rynek” and “Mięso”) and periodical inspections at market places and means of transportation (especially before the holidays), largely ineffective. For example, in the last quarter of 1984 including the Christmas period, the inspections conducted in Warsaw, Łódź, ←222 | 223→Gdańsk, Lublin, and Wrocław and in the mainly rural voivodships of Skierniewice, Siedlce, Ostrołęka, Radom, Płock, and Ciechanów revealed illegal slaughter and meat trading worth 22 million zloty. Criminal investigations were instigated against 73 people.750 The black marketeers immediately found loopholes in the existing regulations. “It is difficult for our policemen to arrest a suspect at the point of being engaged in an act of illegal trading,” Andrzej Szymanowski, in charge of economic crime in Warsaw Police Headquarters, commented in September 1984. “They are often recognized and closely watched by criminals. And it is not easy to obtain proof from the suspect or testimony from a witness, either, since they don’t want to lose an additional source of meat supply.”751 Some meat dealers took care to legitimize their activities, for example by obtaining permits allowing them to sell products from internal export including meat and deli cuts.752

The black marketeers used different defense strategies when they were finally arrested. For example, each time that a pensioner from Wołomin was caught selling meat, which happened repeatedly, she “creates a situation where emergency paramedics don’t allow her arrest, which in turn makes it impossible to use accelerated summary proceedings.”753 In consequence, the most common punishment for the “veal woman” was a fine. She regarded the amount part of her opportunity cost and in no time at all made up for it in sales.754

5.2.5.3“Legalize the Illegal Just a Little”: 1984–1989

Paradoxically, the dynamic growth of the meat black market in the first half of the 1980s contributed to its legalization. First of all, it proved there was sufficient meat in Poland and if society were to accept it being priced higher, no rationing would be necessary. After analyzing the black market mechanisms, Polish economists were again hopeful that the market could be balanced. While in late 1981 the ratio of black market to retail prices was 4:1, after the steep price hikes in the early part of the following year, it went down to only 1.3:1 and this remained the average until mid‑decade. Of course, a lot depended on the range of products ←223 | 224→available and the circumstances prevailing locally; prices tended to be higher in big cities and in industrial areas. In rural voivodships such as Zamość, Koszalin, Zielona Góra, and Olsztyn, free market prices were very close to official prices and sometimes, as in Olsztyn – even lower, and, the “rationing coupon crimes” in consequence almost non‑existent.755

Significantly, it was representatives of the Voivodship Commission for Combating Speculation, from rural voivodships such as Ostrołęka, Skierniewice, Ciechanów, Płock and Radom, that proposed the reinstatement of legal meat trading in marketplaces. The chairman of the parliamentary Internal Market Commission (Komisja Rynku Wewnętrznego) and soon to be a minister, Jerzy Jóźwiak, voiced this idea during a meeting on September 27, 1984, declaring, “personally I would prefer to give some thought to this other meat market, which has many features of a legal market, as to how we could, ahem… take control of it…”756

What was postulated was not revolutionizing the distribution but only partial legalization of the status quo and control over at least some of the meat sold via unofficial channels. The idea did not fly – mostly due to fears that loosening the rigors introduced in August 1981 would not so much constrict the black market as rather reduce official deliveries to state purchasing stations and, in effect, reduce the supply to state‑owned stores. Such fears were real – a significant part of the Polish population had gotten used to the security of life with a ration coupon in hand and did not want to give it up. Especially when wage increases kept ahead of official meat prices: between 1982 and 1986 wages grew on average by 207.2% while prices rose by 148.2%.757

In the spring of 1985, a well-known journalist, Krystyna Zielińska, who later became a deputy chief of the parliamentary Commission for the Internal Market, during a radio broadcast proposed an “experiment” to be conducted in one or two voivodships to “return to the question of marketplaces and legalize the illegal trade just a little”, since it was so “widespread”.758 The solution that she raised was also being discussed in the Ministry of Internal Trade and Services but the debate did not set the wheels in motion. The Ministry was worried that, once the ←224 | 225→rigid regulations were relaxed, ordinary citizens would not be able to buy their rations because restaurant owners and artisans would snap up all meat. In early May 1985, referring to meat prices, Deputy Prime Minister, Zenon Komender, admitted openly, “If we raised the price, we would be able to abolish rationing. We keep the rationing coupons so we can guarantee eight kilos for the miners, four for the hard physical workers, and two kilos for the rest of us. The point is that if we decide […] in favor of the free market […], the next day there will be terrible outcry, above all in Łódź, Katowice, Warsaw, and Gdańsk. So, we have to remind all those who propose an easy departure from rationing what would happen if people did not have that certainty…”759 The authorities decided to revisit the issue in the second quarter of 1986.

In the event, this happened much sooner. In the fall of 1985, the Polish parliament, the Sejm, took on the question of re-instating marketplace trading and the issue hit the headlines.760 Finally, in February 1986, in three voivodships, followed by another four in March, (Warsaw, Leszno, Tarnobrzeg, then Łódź, Katowice, Bielsko, and Siedlce) the “experimental marketplace sale of meat” was introduced, planned to take effect from August 1986. The goal was to take over as much black market meat as possible and “to draw preliminary conclusions about conditions and about the future prospect of revoking the rationing.”761 Without a doubt, getting people used to high prices was also high on the agenda.

Apparently, some meat black marketeers, especially those who had cars and could trade wholesale, did switch to the new modus operandi, which they, however, approached as always with a twist, selling meat also outside of the marketplaces and sourcing meat from non‑designated voivodships.762 This posed yet another dilemma for the authorities. “Until the experiment started in the seven voivodships, nothing was in doubt,” members complained during the CKWS meeting in April 1986. “Now there are doubts. As things stand, we should regard the sale of meat from private slaughter also in those seven voivodships but outside of the marketplaces as harmful to the public. Those responsible should be prosecuted.”763

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Although the authorities did not entirely give up on the idea of prosecuting the “veal woman”, at the same time the worsening supply and growing inflation forced them not only to extend marketplace meat vending to all the other voivodships but also to embark on mapping out methods of abandoning rationing. In late 1986, a new, cross‑industry commission presented the first draft of a paper on “Conditions for Abandoning Rationing of Meat and Meat Products”. The next draft, from June 1987,764 appeared on July 28, at the discussion forum of the Politburo. Despite the ordinance of the Tenth Congress of the Polish United Workers’ Party of June 1986 anticipating the end of rationing by 1990, there were suggestions to introduce it earlier, in 1988. The year 1989 was expected to be challenging in terms of meat supply. There were fears that – since incomes, although high, failed to put food on the table – social tensions might rise higher and would be difficult to appease with yet another price hike. “Market self‑regulation” was deemed more rational.765

Out of the three possible strategies, the government experts rejected the safest option: abolishing rationing accompanied by a small price increase of 8–10%. They also vetoed the most radical option – the introduction of free market, with supply and prices completely unregulated. The authorities chose the path that, while unlikely to result in a resounding victory, ought at least to minimize losses: to reach market equilibrium by continuing to drip‑feed appropriate official price rises. The manual market regulation was to be maintained, in the expectation that central “direction of bulk meat coming from central state purchasing” would preserve the status quo for a while.

With a “positive news offensive”, the government Press Bureau launched a propaganda strategy in which marketplaces and bazaars, until recently considered the lair of speculators, were painted as effective bulwarks of the free market. The emphasis was on showing that although the market stalls were groaning with meat, the prices were high. To fight the assumption that the free trade relied on flogging meat from pickup trucks and station wagons, the new propaganda images were to show “nationalized, and occasionally also non-nationalized, stores where meat was sold at contract prices (ceny umowne)” and “highlight the glaring discrepancy in the hygienic conditions between the state stores and marketplaces.”766

←226 | 227→

The Politburo and the government accepted the plan in September 1987 and, for the time being, the matter was put to rest. In the tense political situation of 1988 and 1989, the authorities were wary of taking any decisive steps on the meat minefield. In the spring of 1989, the situation grew paradoxical to the point of schizophrenic. On the one hand, there was unrestricted economic freedom, Polish citizens were allowed to keep their passports at home (rather than, as before, having to hand them in immediately on return from abroad, which let the state monitor closely their international comings and goings) and were free to use hard currency. On the other hand, the bulk meat trade was still being steered manually so that, as the explanation went, mass catering such as that in schools and hospitals and rationed supply would not suffer. The only concession, in 1988, was that artisans were now allowed to purchase livestock at contract prices and to sell meat production outside of the rationing.767

The cross-industry commission persevered, every so often releasing a new version of “Conditions for Abandoning Rationing”.768 The material presented in January 1989 made no bones about the fact that the days of ration coupons were numbered and they would end soon enough, best of all, with effect from March 1, since there were no guarantees that implementation at a later date would be any easier. However, nobody wanted to make any unpopular decisions during the momentous Round Table Talks, which took place in Warsaw from February 6, to April 5, 1989, and in which the government initiated discussions with the banned trade union Solidarity and other opposition groups in an attempt to defuse growing social unrest. And so, all voivods continued to receive their non‑negotiable quotas of “bulk meat” for distribution.

The ambitious decisions of the Economy and Social Policy Team (Zespół Gospodarki i Polityki Społecznej) at the Round Table Talks intended to improve market supply and the standard of living and bring about the necessary abolition of the rationing of goods and deregulating market prices turned out to be more difficult to put into practice than changes in the Constitution and calling an election. As soon as the agreements had been signed, the Ministry of Internal Market started backpedaling, suggesting that it would perhaps be wiser to rephrase the statement that the improvements “would take place in 1989” to “would take place from 1989”. The voivods continued to be bombarded with official letters urging increased “discipline in comprehensive and timely current account‑keeping for ←227 | 228→rationed meat sales”.769 It is ironic that in order to feed the election commissions, over 86 tons of meat had to be found outside of the rationing system.770

Immediately following the elections in 1989, there was still no‑one eager to take any radical steps. The situation became a virtual stalemate: with inflation accelerating rapidly, the hot money put more and more pressure on the increasingly depleted market. Farmers also bided their time, resignedly waiting for the promised free market that would bring higher prices for their produce. As they did in 1981, they preferred to sabotage the compulsory state deliveries and favored alternative distribution channels. In July 1989, this led to a situation that those living in the cities were unable to buy meat with their coupons and were forced to use the free market.

As if nothing had happened, the coupons for August 1989 were nevertheless issued as usual. These were, however, soon destined to remain forever in home archives – as the poignant memento of the eight years of rationing that Poland had lived through. On July 27, with little prior discussion, the Politburo approved the government motion to deregulate meat sales and introduce a free market. From August 1, “any restrictions on the purchase and trade of meat, meat products and livestock” were abolished.771 Two days later, the Council of Ministers rubber-stamped the decision with Official Act Number 109.772 This was the end of rationing. It was also the beginning of the end of the – half-a-century long – Polish meat psychosis.


560 J. Kawalec, “Spadochronowe” zakupy, “Echo Dnia”, no. 298/October 30, 1948.

561 AAN, KC PZPR, 237/XXXI–243, fol. 223. PH, 96, 2005, z. 4, pp. 587–605.

562 See: Ł. Kamiński, A. Małkiewicz, K. Ruchniewicz, Opór społeczny w Europie Środkowej w latach 1948–1953 na przykładzie Polski, NRD i Czechosłowacji. Wstępny raport z badań, Wrocław 2004, pp. 285–290; T. Szarota, Śmiech zakazany – kawał (dowcip) polityczny jako informacja o postrzeganiu peerelowskiej rzeczywistości, “Polska 1944/45–1989. Studia i Materiały” 5, 2001, pp. 209–236; about “meat jokes” see: D. Jarosz i M. Pasztor, Afera mięsna: fakty i konteksty, Toruń 2004, pp. 196–200.

563 The “meat problem” was discussed at the session of KC PZPR Politburo for the last time on November 7, 1989; AAN, KC PZPR, 2162, fol. 67.

564 M. Pohorille, Preferencje konsumentów a postulowany wzorzec spożycia, Warszawa 1978, pp. 178179; H.-J. Teuteberg, The general relationship between diet and industrialization, in: European diet from pre-industrial to modern times, ed. E. and R. Forster, New York 1975, pp. 61–109.

565 E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, New York 1964, quoted from H.P. Müller, Die “feinen Unterschiede”, wo es keine geben sollte. Anmerkungen zum Verhältnis von Arbeiteraristokratie und Luxus, in: “Luxus und Konsum” – eine historische Annäherung, Münster–New York–München 2003, p. 209.

566 Mały rocznik statystyczny 1938, Warszawa 1938, pp. 147, 149–151; W. Szewczyk, Spożycie żywności w Polsce w okresie międzywojennym (na tle dochodów i wydatków na konsumpcję), Warszawa 1991, pp. 144, 150; J. Żarnowski, Polska 1918–1939. Praca – technika – społeczeństwo, Warszawa 1999, pp. 150, 252.

567 W. Szymański, Ceny a konsumpcja i produkcja żywności, Warszawa 1979, p. 177.

568 L. Beskid, Ekonomiczne uwarunkowania rozwoju konsumpcji, in: Badania nad wzorami konsumpcji, ed. J. Szczepański, Wrocław–Warszawa–Kraków 1977, pp. 99–100; S. Jankowski, Warunki bytu ludności, in: Gospodarka Polski Ludowej 1944–1955, ed. J. Kaliński, Z. Landau, vol. 2, Warszawa 1976, p. 66.

569 W. Michna, W. Sztarbałło, K. Prędecka, A. Dyka, Modele spożycia żywności (w aspekcie polityki wyżywienia na lata 1986–1990), Warszawa 1986, p. 5.

570 Z. Lewandowska, Model konsumpcji w Polsce w okresie industrializacji socjalistycznej, Warszawa 1979, pp. 75–76. In 1950, meat consumption in Czechoslovakia represented 90%, in Hungary 71%, and in the GDR 60% of meat consumption in Poland. In the next twenty years, the proportions reversed; ibid., p. 79.

571 M. Pohorille, Konsumpcja, in: Systemy wartości a wzory konsumpcji społeczeństwa polskiego, Warszawa 1980, p. 111.

572 J. Szczepański, Zagadnienia konstruowania i realizacji modelu i wzorów konsumpcji socjalistycznej, in: Badania nad wzorami konsumpcji […], pp. 61–62.

573 L. Beskid, Ekonomiczne …, pp. 187, 195; E. Kieżel, Podstawy programowania spożycia żywności, Katowice 1985, pp. 51, 122–123; Z. Żekoński, Wstępne informacje o strukturze żywienia ludności miast, OBOP, Warszawa 1960 (I used a copy stored in ODZP TVP, 1847/7). See: D. Jarosz, M. Pasztor, Afera mięsna […], pp. 158–162.

574 AZZ, Wydział Ekonomiczny, 204/43, October 1, 1965.

575 AAN, KC PZPR, 237/V/598, fol. 33; W. Szymański, Ceny a konsumpcja […], p. 257.

576 E. Kieżel, Podstawy programowania spożycia […], p. 61; A. Wiśniewski, Czasochłonność żywienia w gospodarstwach domowych, in: Diagnoza zmian w strukturze konsumpcji (na przykładzie gospodarstw domowych), Katowice 1990, p. 117; A. Wiśniewski, Warunki i sposoby realizacji funkcji żywieniowej gospodarstw domowych w Polsce w końcu lat osiemdziesiątych, in: Konsumpcja w gospodarstwach domowych lat osiemdziesiątych, ed. T. Pałaszewska-Reindl, Katowice 1992, p. 34.

577 Before long, refrigerators became more popular, making it possible to store food for longer periods. For example in 1975, a reporter on Polityka observed: “after standing in line for a long time you usually buy more. There is a reason why refrigerators with big freezers are now disappearing from the stores whereas before they were not so popular””; Z. Szeliga, Mięso – kłopoty i perspektywy, “Polityka”, no. 11/March 15, 1975.

578 Polityka i organizacja żywienia ludności, ed. W. Kamiński, Warszawa 1980, p. 70.

579 K. Hofman, Konsumpcja żywności w Polsce. Aspekty ekonomiczne, społeczne i żywieniowe, Warszawa 1989, pp. 103, 139; B. Kowrygo, E. Rosiak, Spożycie żywności przez ludność rolniczą w świetle danych Instytutu Ekonomiki Rolnej, in : Model konsumpcji żywności w Polsce w środowisku wiejskim, Warszawa 1981, p. 99.

580 W. Szymański, Ceny a konsumpcja […], p. 304.

581 AAN, KC PZPR, 2149, fol. 161.

582 W. Szymański, Ceny a konsumpcja […], pp. 251, 256.

583 Mechanizmy ekonomiczne kształtowania spożycia. Kryzys, próba reform, kierunki zmian, ed. L. Żabiński, Katowice 1991, p. 44; E. Kieżel, Podstawy programowania spożycia […], p. 55.

584 S. Golinowska, Decyzje centrum o kształtowaniu rzeczowej struktury spożycia, Warszawa 1989, p. 105.

585 M.F. Rakowski, Dzienniki polityczne 1972–1975, Warszawa 2002, p. 89.

586 S. Golinowska, Decyzje centrum […], pp. 84, 116.

587 B. Gulbicka, Dochody, spożycie i akumulacja w indywidualnych gospodarstwach chłopskich w Polsce Ludowej, Warszawa 1986, pp. 83, 92.

588 W. Michna, W. Sztarbałło, K. Prędecka, A. Dyka, Modele spożycia żywności […], pp. 6–8.

589 B. Gulbicka, Dochody, spożycie i akumulacja […], pp. 10, 13.

590 S. Golinowska, Decyzje centrum […], p. 117.

591 A.K. Wróblewski, Świni banknotami nie nakarmi. Sztufada zamiast schabowego, in: Czarna księga cenzury PRL, part 2, Londyn 1978, p. 460.

592 R. Milic-Czerniak, Adaptacja konsumentów do warunków kryzysu ekonomiczno-społecznego w pierwszej połowie lat osiemdziesiątych, in: Warunki i sposób życia – zachowania przystosowawcze w kryzysie, ed. L. Beskid, Warszawa 1989, pp. 115–116; Umowa o kartki, ed. J. Kurczewski, Warszawa 2004.

593 Informacja o przestępczości gospodarczej w 1959 r., Warszawa 1960 (NIK, Wydział ds. Nadużyć Gospodarczych, copy in the author’s possession), p. 40.

594 R. Radzyński, Produkcja, handel i spożycie mięsa w Krakowie, Kraków 1934, pp. 33–34, 45.

595 AAN, Akta Józefa Wojtyny, 18, fol. 6–7.

596 AAN, Komisarz Rządowy do Spraw Organizacji Gospodarki Mięsnej, fol. 3–4, 6–7.

597 AAN, KS, 5, fol. 122.

598 D. Jarosz, M. Pasztor, W krzywym zwierciadle. Polityka władz komunistycznych w Polsce w świetle plotek i pogłosek z lat 1949–1956, Warszawa 1995, pp. 29–30; “Głos Ludu”, no. 256/September 15, 1948.

599 “Polska Zbrojna”, no. 254, September 15, 1948. “On meatless days poultry and game are allowed,” Aleksander Janta‑Połczyński remembered from his visit to Poland in 1948. “On such days one can find on a restaurant menu, for example, a roast boar, pork or chicken schnitzel. I asked: what is this schnitzel made from? It’s all made with veal, of course, they answered.” A. Janta-Połczyński, Wracam z Polski 1948, Paryż 1949, p. 20.

600 “Gazeta Robotnicza”, no. 253/September 13, 1948; “Dziennik Zachodni”, no. 256/ September 14, 948; “Gazeta Zachodnia” (Poznań), no. 314/September 16, 1948.

601 “Express Ilustrowany”, no. 257/September 17, 1948; see: “Kurier Codzienny”, no. 257/ September 18, 1948.

602 Kontrakcja Rządu i klasy robotniczej łamie dywersję spekulantów na rynku żywnościowym, “Trybuna Robotnicza” (Katowice), no. 244/September 20, 1948.

603 “Kurier Codzienny”, no. 254/September 15, 1948; “Rzeczpospolita”, no. 268/September 28, 1948; see: Kupcy podbijają ceny. Na targu bydlęcym w Rawie Mazowieckiej, ŻW, no. 258/September 18, 1948; Reorganizacja rynku mięsnego warunkiem skutecznego zwalczania spekulacji, ibid., no. 259/September 19, 1948; W Siemiatyczach […],“Wieczór”, no. 260/September 20, 1948; Nadszedł czas walki, “Słowo Polskie” (Wrocław), no. 258/September 18, 1948; Walka z paskarzami rozpoczęta, “Głos Pomorza” (Toruń), no. 260/September 2, 1948.

604 “Głos Ludu”, no. 258/September 18, 1948.

605 AAN, KS, 11, fol. 84; “Gazeta Zachodnia”, no. 258/September 20, 1948; “Głos Ludu”, no. 268/September 28, 1948.

606 M. Jastrząb, Puste półki. Problem zaopatrywania ludności w artykuły powszechnego użytku w Polsce w latach 1949–1956, Warszawa 2004, p. 130.

607 “Robotnik”, no. 319/November 19, 1948.

608 “Express Ilustrowany”, no. 15/January 16, 1949; “Kurier Codzienny” (Warszawa), no. 4/January 5, 1949.

609 “Kurier Polski”, no. 29/January 30, 1949.

610 Ibid.

611 “Rzeczpospolita”, no. 32/February 2, 1949.

612 “Słowo Polskie” (Wrocław), no. 46/February 16, 1949; see: “Dziennik Zachodni”, no. 46/February16, 1949; “Express Poznański”, no. 47/February 18, 1949.

613 During a big inspection conducted before Easter 1949 (April 8 to 12) it turned out that on the first day alone and only in Gdańsk DOKP, 926 kg of meat was confiscated and approximately 50 people were arrested. The result was that smugglers developed new, shrewder strategies. For example, meat was mailed in packages (before Easter the number of such packages in Łódź alone rose from one to eight thousand daily) or transported via remote routes. “Głos Wybrzeża”, no. 105/April 16–18, 1949; AAN, KS, 11, fol. 110.

614 “Express Ilustrowany”, no. 43/February13, 1949; ibid., no. 64/March 6, 1949; “Głos Kutnowski”, no. 44/February15, 1949; “Życie Częstochowy”, no. 45/February15, 1949.

615 AAN, KS, 11, fol. 98.

616 The Warsaw Delegation of the Special Commission reported in September 1949: “What mostly happens during inspections is that meat is confiscated; the dealers are much harder to catch”. Ibid., Odprawa przewodniczących Delegatur KS, September 29, 1949, fol. 127.

617 Ibid., fol 118.

618 Ibid., fol. 127.

619 AAN, KS, 1503, fol. 46.

620 AAN, KS, 11, fol. 166.

621 Komisja Specjalna do Walki z Nadużyciami i Szkodnictwem Gospodarczym 1945–1954, ed. D. Jarosz, T. Wolsza, Warszawa 1995, p. 104.

622 AAN, KS, 4, fol. 2–4, 6.

623 M. Jastrząb, Puste półki…, pp. 82–83.

624 APW, KWar. PZPR, July 3–43, vol. 1, fol. 187.

625 Centrum władzy. Protokoły posiedzeń kierownictwa PZPR. Wybór z lat 1949–1970, ed. A. Dudek, A. Kochański, K. Persak, Warszawa 2000, pp. 96–98; M. Jastrząb, Puste półki…, pp. 161–207.

626 ODZP TVP, 1050/1, letter from October 18, 1951.

627 The anonymous letter sent by a farmer from Biłgoraj to a Fala 49 radio program on August 31, 1951 shows what the authorities were up against: “Dear Fala 49, how can we catch these profiteers? If a worker doesn’t buy under the counter even as little as 10g of meat or fat, then he won’t get to eat meat or fat at all since it’s unavailable in the coop stores. If I could buy at the coop at least one kg of some fat once a week for a family of five […], I myself would denounce at least three profiteers. But if I did turn in a profiteer, then all that I and my family would have to eat would be potatoes without even any butter….”; ibid., Biuletyn 29, September 6, 1951.

628 APW, KWar. PZPR, July 30; 43, vol. 1, fol. 199, 240.

629 AIPN, Ministry of Public Security (Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego,) 699, fol. 165.

630 “Polish United Workers Party and United People’s Party to all peasants, small and medium landholders”.

631 AAN, Bolesław Bierut Archive, 254/IV–16.

632 AAN, KC PZPR, 237/V/151, fol. 6.

633 Ibid., fol. 3.

634 Ibid., fol. 16.

635 L. Próchniak, Kolektywizacja rolnictwa w regionie łódzkim, Łódź 2003, p. 141.

636 A. Kochański, Polska 1944–1991. Informator historyczny, vol. 1: Podział administracyjny, ważniejsze akty prawne, decyzje i enuncjacje państwowe (1944–1956), Warszawa 1996, p. 550.

637 AAN, KC PZPR, 237/XII–240, fol. 27, 41.

638 AAN, MHW, 78, fol. 38.

639 Ibid., fol. 45.

640 AAN, MS, 3084, fol. 26.

641 AAN, MS, 3091, fol. 6.

642 Ibid., fol. 7.

643 Ibid.

644 C. Bobrowski, Wspomnienia ze stulecia, Lublin 1985, p. 256.

645 AAN, KC PZPR, 1692, fol. 11.

646 ODZP TVP, 1050/29, Biuletyn listów no. 47/September 12, 1959.

647 M.F. Rakowski, Dzienniki polityczne 1958–1962, Warszawa 1998, p. 145.

648 AAN, KC PZPR, 1693, Politburo session, September 15, 1959, fol. 504.

649 AAN, KC PZPR, V/63, Poliburo session, October 3, 1959, fol. 102. The ordinance of the Minister of Internal Affairs from October 8, 1959 established the mandate of the inspectorates in Police and Voivod Police Headquarters. On December 5, 1959 the Prime Minister appointed inspectors in city and county police headquarters; A. Kochański, Polska 1944–1991. Informator historyczny, vol. 2: Ważniejsze akty prawne, decyzje i enuncjacje państwowe (1957–1970), Warszawa 2000, pp. 180, 188.

650 For example: “Kurier Polski”, no. 241/October 12, 1959.

651 W. Gomułka, Aktualne trudności na rynku mięsnym i środki niezbędne dla ich przezwyciężenia. Presentation at the Third Session of the PUWP CC on October 17, 1959, Warszawa 1959, p. 10.

652 Ibid., pp. 69–83.

653 AIPN, KG MO, 35/3422.

654 Ibid. 655 Ibid.

656 Ibid.

657 AZZ, CRZZ Wydział Socjalny, 204/29, 204/36, unpag.

658 AZZ, CRZZ Social Department (Wydział Socjalny), 204/30, Conclusions concerning limiting meat consumption in public catering, October 2, 1962.

659 AZZ, CRZZ Social Department, 204/33, Market evaluation 1962–1963, June 25, 1963. The resolution of the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers (KERM) from August 10, 1963 restricted the deliveries of bulk meat fat for voivodships. Consequently, the Ministry of Internal Trade (MHW) asked the chairmen of the presidiums of the Voivodship National Councils (WRN) to save the maximum amount of meat at the expense of cured and processed meat and make restaurants and other public catering outlets “serve fish, herring and vegetarian dishes”. Meat-free Mondays should be observed unconditionally; ibid., MHW to the chairmen of WRN presidiums, August 20, 1963. The authorities considered replacing meat with soya in cured meats. AAN, KC PZPR, 1730, Note on changes in meat and meat products supply, December 16, 1963, fol. 96.

660 M.F. Rakowski, Dzienniki polityczne 1963–1966, Warszawa 1999, p. 97.

661 AZZ, CRZZ Wydział Socjalny, 204/29.

662 See: D. Jarosz, M. Pasztor, Afera mięsna…

663 APW, KWar. PZPR, 30/VII–43, t. 24, Special Information, July 10, 1964.

664 See: D. Jarosz, M. Pasztor, Z badań nad stosunkiem władz Polski Ludowej do niedoborów mięsa, “Roczniki Dziejów Społecznych i Gospodarczych” 65, 2005, pp. 229–266.

665 AAN, KC PZPR, 237/V/917, fol. 43–47.

666 Ibid., fol. 46.

667 Ibid., fol. 47. Indeed, in 1964 the slaughter of calves was banned, which led to bizarre situations: “Agricultural services, ORMO patrols, the police, and Party activists blocked the roads on market days trying to prevent veal ‘leaks’. Often disturbances would occur, with the protesters using pitch forks and stakes. More cases were brought before the courts against those who had assaulted the functionaries than those slaughtering calves illegally.” The ban was abolished in 1971; M. Mońko, Zedrzeć skórkę incognito, “Polityka”, No. 8/February 22, 1986.

668 AZZ, CRZZ Wydział Ekonomiczny, 204/43.

669 AIPN, 0296/66, vol. 2, fol. 1–2.

670 M. Zaremba, Gdzie jest mięso. Donosy o nastrojach Polaków z przełomu 1967 i 1968 r., “Polityka”, No. 8/February 21, 1998.

671 AAN, KC PZPR, 1738, fol. 190.

672 J. Krok-Paszkowski, Podatek od mięsa, “Kultura”, Paris 1968, No. 1/243–2/224, p. 128. 673 AAN, URM, 5.3/11, fol. 38.

674 AAN, URM, 5.3/12, fol. 5, 12–13.

675 AAN, URM, 5.3/13, fol. 27; ibid., 5.3/14, fol. 523––525, 528. It turned out that the security measures in the meat industry had been tightened only on paper. Between 1965 and 1968 alone, twelve major affairs were exposed. Meat plants managers‑in‑chief of were involved in nine of these, and their deputies – in all of them. Major frauds were also uncovered in plants where criminal gangs had previously been liquidated.”AAN, KC PZPR, 237/XII–448, fol. 7.

676 APW, Warsaw Voivodship Committee of PUWP, 60/VIII–31, vol. 1, fol. 48–51. 677 M.F. Rakowski, Dzienniki polityczne 1969–1971, Warszawa 2001, pp. 263–264. 678 AAN, URM, 5.3/86, fol. 96.

679 ODZP TVP, 1231/2, Biuletyn 1971, 1(560), Commentary on recent events.

680 AAN, URM, 5.3/30, fol. 258–259; Rynek mięsny, “Polityka”, No. 37/ September 9, 1972. 681 APKr, KW PZPR, 319, fol. 174.

682 M.F. Rakowski, Dzienniki polityczne 1972–1975…, pp. 258–259.

683 Z. Szeliga, Mięso – kłopoty i perspektywy, “Polityka”, No. 11/March 15, 1975.

684 M. Zaremba, “Bigosowy socjalizm”. Dekada Gierka, in: Polacy wobec PRL. Strategie przystosowawcze, ed. G. Miernik, Kielce 2003, p. 198.

685 AAN, KC PZPR, WO, 3067, vol. 56, fol. 44.

686 AAN, KC PZPR, 1786, fol. 576–587.

687 AAN, KC PZPR, 1792, The Minister of Internal Trade and Services to voivods and city mayors, July 1976, fol. 446.

688 Ibid.

689 AAN, KC PZPR, XI/834, k. 162–165.

690 AAN, KC PZPR, 1794, k. 4.

691 AAN, KC PZPR, WO, 3202.

692 AAN, KC PZPR, XI/1064, k. 156.

693 W. Dąbrowski, T. Jakubczyk, Nielegalny obrót zwierzętami rzeźnymi i artykułami rolno-spożywczymi. Wybrane zagadnienia, Warszawa 1977.

694 AAN, KC PZPR, XIA/476, fol. 21–22.

695 AAN, KC PZPR, WO, 3448, fol. 4 (Legnica), 16 (Radom), 23 (Bielsko-Biała), 27 (Koszalin), 34 (Częstochowa).

696 B. Gulbicka, Dochody, spożycie i akumulacja…, p. 208.

697 AAN, URM, 32/112, fol. 47.

698 AAN, KC PZPR, XI/756, fol. 23; see: E. Fiala, Gdzie jest mięso?, TL, No. 223/September 23, 1981.

699 A. Kochański, Polska 1944–1991. Informator historyczny, vol. 3: Ważniejsze akty prawne, decyzje i enuncjacje państwowe (1971–1991), part 1: 1971–1982, Warszawa 2005, p. 506.

700 AAN, URM, 32/112, fol. 118–119.

701 D.T. Grala, Reformy gospodarcze w PRL (1982–1989). Próba uratowania socjalizmu, Warszawa 2005, p. 76. See: AAN, The Institute of Internal Market and Services, 317, Market Development under Insufficient Supply and Rationing 1980–1984, Warszawa, December 1983, fol. 34.

702 In urban agglomerations, rationing drastically decreased the size of annual deliveries per person: in Warsaw from 109.9 kg (1980) to 54.5 kg (1986), in Katowice from 98.9 to 55.5, in Łódź from 88.7 to 54.1, and in Gdańsk from 65.6 to 49 kg.

703 L. Beskid, Ekonomiczny i społeczny wymiar przemian warunków życia w latach 1980–1985, in: Warunki i sposób życia…, p. 20.

704 B. Gulbicka, Konsumpcja w indywidualnych gospodarstwach chłopskich w latach 1980–1984: report, Warszawa 1986, p. 3.

705 AAN, URM, 32/64, fol. 11–12, 17; ibid., 32/75, fol. 24.

706 See: A. Wolin, Nie tylko pięć miliardów, “Rzeczpospolita” January 29, 1982.

707 AAN, URM, 32/23, fol. 70; Przestępstwo zaczyna się w punkcie skupu. Z kapitanem mgr. inż. Krystynem Pochlidem z Biura do Walki z Przestępstwami Gospodarczymi Komendy Głównej MO rozmawia Sławomir Orłowski, “Express Wieczorny” September 21–23, 1984.

708 Zamknięte koło malwersacji mięsnych, TL, November 14, 1980.

709 AAN, KC PZPR, XIA/1459, fol. 328; W masarniach… chudną, TL, August 5, 1982.

710 AAN, URM, 32/10, fol. 4.

711 Mięso w nielegalnym obrocie, TL, April 17–18, 1982.

712 AAN, KC PZPR, XIA/1459, fol. 328.

713 AAN, URM, 32/6, PISiPAR, fol. 40.

714 Hojne deputaty w zakładach mięsnych, ŻW, 12 III 1982; Nadużycia w przemyśle mięsnym, “Rzeczpospolita” March 12, 1982; AAN, URM, 32/113, fol. 76.

715 AAN, URM, 32/17, fol. 80.

716 For example, in late 1981 Meat Plants in the Służewiec district of Warsaw exchanged 768 kg of kielbasa for alcohol with the Warsaw Spirits Plant; AAN, URM, 32/17, fol. 141.

717 AAN, URM, 32/182, fol. 66.

718 AAN, URM, 32/191, fol. 104–105.

719 AAN, URM, 32/119, fol. 79. 720 AAN, URM, 32/113, fol. 58. 721 AAN, URM, 32/62, fol. 8.

722 AAN, URM, 32/75, fol. 108.

723 Ibid.

724 Wacława Grzelak’s testimony, Stary Kraszew, February 22, 2004, in the author’s possession.

725 In the fall of 1948 there were still 34 butcher stores, approximately 170 livestock merchants and 11 legal enterprises rendering slaughter waste into industrial fat in this village with the population of 5 000; “Głos Ludu”, No. 276/October 6, 1948.

726 ŻW, No. 307/November 7, 1948.

727 TL, No. 50/February 20, 1949.

728 AAN, KS, 1500.

729 Zwoleń, Białobrzegi, Skaryszew, Przytyk, and Jedlińsk (among others) constituted a meat hinterland for Radom; “Życie Radomskie”, No. 75/March 17, 1949.

730 M. Mońko, Zedrzeć skórkę incognito, “Polityka”, No. 8/February 22, 1986.

731 The examples apply mostly to Warsaw. The strategies used in other big cities did not differ significantly. On Poznań see: M. Czech, Przedwojenny smak, in: Prywaciarze 1945–89, ed. A. Knyt, A. Wancerz-Gluza, Warszawa 2001, pp. 97–98.

732 APW, KWar. PZPR, 30/VIII–12, vol 1, fol. 14; Szlakiem handlu pokątnego. “Małkinia” – 20.50, ŻW, No. 265/September 26, 1948.

733 Dziś rozmawiamy z kpt. A. Skomskim z Komendy Wojewódzkiej MO w Warszawie o mięsie w bańkach i sztuczkach z klasą, “Sztandar Młodych”, No. 252/October 22, 1959; “Dziennik Polski” London, No. 157/July 23, 1960.

734 AAN, URM, 32/64, fol. 46.

735 Wacława Grzelak’s testimony, Stary Kraszew, February 22, 2004, in the author’s possession.

736 AAN, URM, 32/64, fol. 190.

737 M. Przybylik, Słonina i schab spod serca…, “Polityka”, No. 49/December 6, 1984.

738 See: J. Wachowicz-Makowska, Panienka z PRL-u, Warszawa 2007, pp. 197–198. Literary rendition in: J. Niemczuk, Plaga, Warszawa 1990.

739 L. Wand, Z własnego życia, “Gazeta Wyborcza” Supplement October 10, 1997.

740 Most travel dates had to be correlated with the days of farmers’ markets, where the animals were usually bought. Convoys from Dobre near Mińsk Mazowiecki took off on Tuesdays (after the Monday market) and from Radzymin on Thursdays (after the Wednesday market); testimonies in the author’s possession.

741 Wacława Grzelak’s testimony, Stary Kraszew, February 22, 2004, in the author’s possession. The “veal woman’s” visit to the State Medical Publishing House (PZWL) is worth mentioning: “At PZWL a “veal woman” used to show up on specific days. She had her own spot: a wide windowsill right next to the main entrance, slightly shielded by a wall, and when she busied herself there, she also put up a curtain. Everyone took equal advantage of the services of the “veal woman”– from cleaning ladies and cloakroom attendants to the directors and Party functionaries. I often met our Party executive secretary and we exchanged comments about the current delivery (“a wonderful veal shoulder”, “beautiful bacon”). During the Solidarity period, our PZWL “veal woman” wore two buttons pinned to her dress or coat – one with the face of Pope John Paul II, the other with the Solidarity logo. After the imposition of Martial Law, she took them off but she gladly accepted underground leaflets to emphasize that, ideologically, she was one of us”; J. Wachowicz-Makowska, Panienka…, p. 197.

742 AAN, URM, 32/64, fol. 43–44.

743 Ibid., fol. 43.

744 Ibid., fol. 46. By late 1980, at the Polna marketplace there was no shortage of clients willing to pay between two dollars fifty and three dollars for a kilo of veal; A. Kołodziejski, Cielęcina… za dolary. Czy nie można opanować czarnego rynku żywnościowego?, TL, No. 298/December 15, 1980. Market halls and bazaars were traditionally a place where effective black market strategies in trading meat were developed. In 1948, before Christmas, a newspaper described the market hall on Koszykowa Street in Warsaw in the following way: “A fellow walks around and takes orders from numerous lady clients. One can order everything there, even quarters of a calf or a pig. Of course, at a much higher price… After taking an order, the dealer sends the customer to a vegetable booth, where the transaction is executed. Several minutes later the customer, clutching the precious package, sneaks out of the market hall. At the “small Karcelak” marketplace at Grójecka Street […], the customer pays cash and the meat is delivered a little later, from a private apartment or some kiosk”; “Express Wieczorny”, No. 349/December 18, 1948.

745 AAN, URM, 32/64, fol. 46.

746 M. Dąbrowska, Dzienniki powojenne, vol. 1: 1945–1949, ed. T. Drewnowski, Warszawa 1997, p. 413.

747 AAN, URM, 32/64, fol. 46.

748 AAN, URM, 32/119, fol. 39.

749 Owce za kaloryfery, czyli nielegalny obrót mięsem, TL, no. 292 /December 12/13, 1981.

750 AAN, URM, 32/75, CKWS session on counteracting irregularities in the meat industry, May 2, 1985, fol. 107–109. For example in Płock viovodship in the first eight months of 1984 only six proceedings in illegal slaughter cases were initiated; ibid., 32/64, fol. 195.

751 AAN, URM, 32/64, fol. 47.

752 Ibid., fol. 44.

753 Ibid., fol. 46.

754 Ibid., fol. 157; Wacława Grzelak’s testimony, Stary Kraszew, February 22, 2004, in the author’s possession.

755 Ceny mięsa na czarnym rynku, “Życie Gospodarcze”, May 9, 1982; AAN, KC PZPR, 2015, Prerequisites of abandoning rationed sales of meat, June 1987; see: W. Starzyńska, Rynek żywności w warunkach niedoboru. Studium statystyczno-ekonometryczne, Łódź 1990.

756 AAN, URM, 32/64, fol. 66.

757 Ibid., fol. 81–83; AAN, URM, 32/75, fol. 114–115.

758 AAN, URM, 32/75, fol. 15.

759 Ibid., fol. 27.

760 A. Mozołowski, Na kartki i na targu, “Polityka”, No. 48/November 30, 1985.

761 AAN, URM, 32/183, fol. 25. The “experiment” introduced was based on a regulation of the Minister of Internal Trade and Services of January 2, 1986 (“Monitor Polski” No. 1, item 3 and No. 8 item 59); see: AAN, MHWiU, 17/2.

762 According to official data, 51.7 tons of meat was sold in the free market system in three voivodships in February 1986 and in March (already in seven voivodships) – 257.6 tons; AAN, URM, 32/183, fol. 25.

763 AAN, URM, 32/88, fol. 34–35.

764 AAN, MHWiU, 10/8, fol. 1–42.

765 AAN, KC PZPR, 2015, fol. 97.

766 Ibid.

767 AAN, Ministry of the Internal Market (Ministerstwo Rynku Wewnętrznego, MRW), 6/1, fol. 5.

768 AAN, MRW, 6/4 and 6/1.769 AAN, MRW, 6/2, fol. 59v. 770 Ibid., fol. 69.

771 AAN, KC PZPR, 2149, fol. 185.

772 “Monitor Polski” no. 24, item 185.